Series: Hundred Oaks #7
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on July 5th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.
Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
If you’ve been around for a while, reading my reviews, you’ll probably know that Miranda Kenneally is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Her books are always perfectly timed, because if anything, they’re the perfect summer reads. But, this being the 7th book, it figures that at some point, she’d resort to tropes that are less my thing. Though I enjoyed Defending Taylor, it wasn’t that special to me.
All of the Hundred Oaks books focus on a sport or passion and some shippy romance. This time, the sport is soccer – score, one of the only sports I really like. The main character’s year got suddenly derailed after she was expelled from her elite prep school, and now she’s stuck going to public school, where the soccer team is an absolute disaster. However, she does get to reconnect with her longtime crush, her brother’s best friend, Ezra, as she tries to regain the trust of her family (which includes her father, a US Senator).
The thing about Kenneally’s stories is that they’re always about very real characters, and though you may not like the way they behave or cringe at the mistakes they make – it’s realistic. They’re teenagers! That means, though, if the mistakes they make are some of your pet peeves… it can be really hard to like. Taylor gets expelled after covering for her crappy now-ex-boyfriend, who had way too many pills of Adderall in his backpack. She lied, said they were hers, to protect him, and as a result got expelled, is now known as a druggie, which also reflects badly on her dad’s campaign. All this… to protect someone who definitely isn’t worth it.
I don’t like stories about lying. I am all about honesty, because 99% of the time, lying does no one any good. It’s frustrating to see Taylor swept up in these lies and constantly passing up opportunities to tell the truth because they’d maybe – oh god – make things worse. And meanwhile, things keep going downhill for her. You just know there’s a point where it’s gonna come out, and it’s not going to be good for anyone. People will obviously be even more furious. You can feel the drama iceberg approaching but you can’t do anything about it. God, stories like this frustrate me to no end.
Luckily that’s not the only thing going on in her life, and seeing her and Ezra together is always really cute. They’re so adorably awkward and hesitant at first – and yes, there’s some lying / holding back in their relationship as well which keeps it from being lovey dovey sap right from the start, but there I could tolerate it more because it proved that they were serious about each other. They had to work for their relationship, and got some adorable help from Taylor’s counselor along the way. They just compliment each other really well and have quite a nice chemistry, though this by no means the hottest of Kenneally’s romances (that is still Breathe, Annie, Breathe by far).
The family dynamics in this one are interesting and complex. You see signs that the senator really loves his daughter, but he’s not about spoiling his kids or giving them unfair advantages by throwing his title around. He encourages them to work hard, and he has so much respect for them when they do. Taylor’s brother and sister are much the same, though at the moment, they seem impossible for Taylor to live up to. What frustrated me though was that when the truth came out that the drugs weren’t Taylor’s, there was no relief from anyone – just anger at the lies. That, to me, was not quite believable.
As always, there are cameo appearances of some characters from the previous Hundred Oaks books – the most prominent being Savannah and Jack – Jack having some great advice for Taylor about going against her parents expectations and wishes. But other than that, this book is kind of light on friendship. The soccer team can’t cooperate and is run by a typical selfish mean girl diva. Taylor gradually gets the respect of the other players as she shows her strategic expertise… but yeah. No real heartwarming feelings there.
While I found it hard to really connect with Taylor, there was one aspect to her that did resonate with me: Taylor is a planner. She has had a vision of what she would do with her life since forever, so when her expulsion puts that future in jeopardy, she’s kind of lost. She has to rediscover what she wants to do – and why. She can’t live to please others. And she should enjoy the present instead of only focusing on the future. She gets some great advice from her counselor and Ezra, and really finds her own path by the end of the book. That’s the quintessential young adult story right there.